May 31, 2012
The term Northbank of the River Thames is not new. It has been used as a general description of the historic high bank of the river between the City of London and Westminster Abbey. Archaeological evidence suggests the area immediately upstream of the Roman City of Londinium was probably the first place where people settled and traded after the departure of the Romans in the fifth century AD.
It was only after this unfortified collection of homesteads had been repeatedly attacked by the Vikings in the ninth century, that people moved back to the more easily defended remains of the Roman town. They then referred to where they had come from as Aldwych. That is the old town – Wych being the word for town, as in Ipswych.
By the thirteenth century, this favoured spot on the high ground above the bend in the river and between the City of London and the religious foundation at Westminster was the site of large mansions set in spacious grounds.
Now eight hundred years later the footprint of many of these mansions between the Strand and the river can still be identified. Arundel Great Court, the Adelphi and Somerset House remain as replacement buildings. The Duchy of Lancaster has unbroken freeholds.
The effect is of large distinguished buildings facing south across the river, catching the ever changing light of the sun. It is the image of the present Northbank.